Village wins battle over Binnekill flow

By Pauline Liu
An eight-year-long dispute between the Village of Margaretville and local landowner Lauren Davis ended last Friday in Delaware County Supreme Court in Delhi. Margaretville won the eminent domain case, which was brought by Davis of Davis Holding Co. LLC.

The village now has the legal right to maintain the bulkhead on Davis’ property in an effort to keep water flowing in the Binnekill.

“The judge reviewed the village’s petition, heard the arguments from the landowner and found in favor of the village on all grounds,” said Village Attorney John Fairbairn III.

Landowner disappointed
When contacted by phone. Davis acknowledged his disappointment. “The judge made the ruling that the village met all of the obligations,” Davis said. “I’m disappointed. I just hope the village will do the work that should be done,” he added. 

Acting Supreme Court Judge Carl Becker upheld an Appellate Court decision from October 2008, which granted the village an easement onto Davis’ land in order to reach the bulkhead.
“The village will now have the clear, specific legal ability to enter onto this 1.738 acre parcel in order to repair, maintain or reconstruct the bulkhead,” said Fairbairn. 

The bulkhead is a stone levee with a large pipe running through the bottom of it. Water from the East Branch of the Delaware River flows through the pipe marking where the Binnekill actually begins. The dispute began several year ago, after the village was approved for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to make needed repairs to the bulkhead, but Davis would not sign the paperwork to grant the village an easement, so the work could be done.

“Because the parties could not agree, the village decided to take the best course of action available to it and condemn the bulkhead and the area around it to make sure that it would have the legal rights necessary to monitor, repair, maintain and rebuild the bulkhead,” said Fairbairn.

Business concerns 
Margaretville business owners have expressed concern over the lack of water in the Binnekill in recent years, since the stream flows through the picturesque village and is considered a tourist attraction. Last year, several Main Street merchants launched a sign campaign to urge the two sides in the dispute to resolve their differences. The signs, which were positioned prominently in storefront windows, read, “Where is the water in our Binnekill?” and “Don’t let our wildlife and people suffer.”

While it would appear that Davis has run out of legal options, he told the News that he is trying to reach his lawyer, Gregory Peirez, to find out if there is another legal recourse. Peirez could not be reached for comment.

Thanks to done work by the Middletown Highway Department to shift the stream back to its original course, following the flood last August, the Binnekill was flowing again for several months. However, another dispute between Davis and the village appears to be brewing.

According to Pat Davis, who is code enforcement officer for both the village and the town, the flow of water in the Binnekill is now being hampered by a beaver dam in the stream that’s located near the bulkhead. Davis disagrees. “The water in the bulkhead is plugged,” said Davis. “The village is circulating another one of those, I call it, a fairytale. The beaver dam is on my property, but it’s not included in the arrangement with the village,” he added.

There appear to be no more beavers left in the dam. “Jerry Fronckowiak (chef at the Bun N’ Cone) trapped them,” said Davis. “Jerry went there with my permission, because the beavers were cutting down my trees,” he added. According to Davis, if the village wants to remove the beaver dam, it will need to seek his permission.